What are Postbiotics? Here’s What You Need to Know

If you’re even mildly interested in gut health (the health of your digestive system), you’re likely familiar with probiotics and prebiotics. Probiotics are high-fiber foods or other consumables (like supplements) that feed your gut flora. Prebiotics, also high in fiber, help that same flora to grow and remain in balance. But there’s one more piece of the gut health puzzle: postbiotics. What are postbiotics, and what do they do for your gut health? This article will explore more about what postbiotics are, how they function in your body, and how you can make sure you’re consuming them. Don’t worry—I’ll make this information easy to digest!

What Are Postbiotics?

So what’s a postbiotic anyway? The short answer is that after the probiotics (live bacteria) in your body have finished consuming the prebiotics in your food, postbiotics are the bioactive waste products left behind. That sounds kind of gross, doesn’t it? It’s actually not as gross as it sounds. Some postbiotics are nutrients—like vitamins B and K—while others are fatty acids that keep your gut health in balance. They also help to:

  • maintain a functional immune system
  • promote heart health
  • prevent inflammation
  • heal wounds
  • promote healthy skin

Postbiotics’ benefits may even include the prevention of cancer and type 2 diabetes.

You can increase the number of postbiotics in your system by making some simple tweaks to your diet. Snack on fruits like apples and bananas, nuts, and beans and lentils, and use onions and garlic to season your cooking. If you like asparagus or seaweed, they’re great additions to your plate as well. These are prebiotic foods, which give something for the probiotics already in your gut to consume—and leave behind more of the good stuff.

What Are Postbiotics? | GutDr Mini-Explainer

Furthermore, fermented foods increase the number of probiotics in your system, so that they can produce more probiotics. Try the beverage kombucha (it’s an acquired taste, but some flavors are pretty good), miso soup, yogurt, kimchi, or good old pickles in a vinegar brine.

Should I Take a Postbiotic Supplement?

A variety of over-the-counter postbiotic supplements are available for purchase at your local drug store or health food store. But it’s easy to wonder if they are worth the investment, and what can they really do for your everyday health? In many cases, yes, these supplements can be a great choice. The benefits of taking a postbiotic supplement can include improved gut health and better protection against the common cold. It’s even possible that postbiotic supplements can lessen eczema symptoms and help you lose weight. They’re generally considered safe and low risk for everyday use, although some users may experience side effects like bloating and gas.

hands young women holding medical capsules, female taking supplement product or vitamin type capsule.

The benefits of taking a postbiotic supplement can improve gut health. (Image Source: Shutterstock)

Additionally, there are some people who should exercise extra caution when using vitamins and supplements—e.g. if you’re pregnant, immune compromised, or recovering from a recent surgical procedure. You also want to be sure none of the products you’re adding to your regimen will interact with prescription medications you’re taking. That’s why it’s always a good idea to check in with your doctor before using any new dietary products, even if you’re in perfect health. He or she can recommend the best supplements for you and steer you away from anything that won’t work for your unique needs.

Eating More Postbiotic (Fermented) Foods: Three Easy Recipes

If you decide not to add anything to your daily regimen right now, there’s good news. You don’t need to take a postbiotic supplement (many of them are pretty pricey) to increase the number of postbiotics in your digestive system. Check out some of these quick and easy recipes that use fermented ingredients to boost your healthy gut flora.

Korean Kimchi Pancakes

You can use kimchi from your local Korean grocer to make these delicious kimchi pancakes or you can even make your own. If you can’t find some of the ingredients—like Korean chili flakes—at your regular supermarket, you can order them from sites like Amazon. These pancakes make a great snack or appetizer, especially if you pair them with a main dish like bulgogi (Korean barbecue beef).

Kombucha Tea

This fermented sweetened tea drink has a taste unlike any other beverage on the market. If you don’t like any of the varieties available on the shelves of your local grocery store, you can try fermenting your own using this handy guide from Simply Recipes. You can use your favorite fruit juice, whole fruit, or herbs and spices to flavor it. (Be sure to follow all the safety protocols as you prepare and ferment your tea.) Don’t want to wait four weeks to try this bubbly brew? Check out the brand Health-Ade, available in many supermarkets. It comes in a variety of exciting flavors, like pineapple creamsicle, Pink Lady apple, and pomegranate.

How-To Make Kombucha – Munchies

Miso Soup

Love that rich and flavorful soup that comes with your order at your favorite Japanese restaurant? With this easy recipe from Love and Lemons, you can enjoy it at home any time you want. The key ingredient here is miso paste, made of fermented soybeans, which gives the soup its flavor and makes it a gut health-friendly dish. Add small chunks of protein-rich tofu, savory seaweed and scallions, and tamari (which tastes a lot like regular soy sauce), and you have a delicious and satisfying snack or meal starter. Serve it with energizing foods like chicken teriyaki or sushi prepared with brown rice for a healthy and satisfying lunch or dinner.

The Bottom Line

The great news about postbiotics is that as you’re reading this, the gut flora in your body are already producing them to help keep you healthy and strong. By choosing more fermented foods or adding a postbiotic supplement to your diet, you can help the probiotics in your system to do an even better job of keeping you well. After all, we’re all more productive after we’ve had something to eat, even microorganisms!  So whether you’re adding a supplement to your daily regimen or simply making a point of snacking on more dill pickles, know that you’re doing something good for yourself. Aren’t our bodies amazing?